ILX Drive: Nevada’s “Valley of Fire” State Park
Odometer (Legend): 528,606
Odometer (ILX): 67,000
Trip Distance: 423 Miles
Despite the fact that the trip between Phoenix, Arizona and my hometown in Southern Utah is one that I’ve driven hundreds of times, it’s still chock full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. I decided to make a side-trip on my drive home to Arizona last Sunday in my 2013 Acura ILX to change things up a bit and see some new turf.
Instead of taking I-15 through Las Vegas as I usually do, I stayed far east of the city on two-lane back roads. Interstate travel can be so mindless and rudimentary. Next time you’re cruising a freeway at 75 miles per hour and worried about getting around that next 18-wheeler, consider taking a state highway sometime. I guarantee you’ll find that there are charming places to see and experience, even if it means slowing your pace a bit. Between Mesquite and Las Vegas, I took a detour from Interstate 15 at Exit 93 and headed south through the small towns of Logandale and Overton on Moapa Valley Boulevard, also known as Highway 169. My destination: Nevada’s oldest state park.
Valley of Fire State Park was named in 1935, but the formations in the park itself date back much, much farther into the past. In the age of the dinosaurs, the shifting of sand dunes resulted in the creation of dramatic red sandstone formations which have the appearance of being on fire in the sunlight. The park covers 42,000 acres which were once inhabited by ancient Pueblo peoples from 300 B.C. to 1150 A.D. Their petroglyphs can still be found in various places inside the park, remarkably well preserved.
It was about 7:45 in the morning when I arrived at the east entrance self-serve pay lot in the ILX. I exited the car and looked around me. I was standing in the middle of 360 degrees of gorgeousness. And not another person or car in sight. I paid $10 in an envelope and geared up my backpack for a short hike to Elephant Rock, the park’s most-photographed rock formation. I failed at finding it. Miserably. I was so focused on looking far in the distance for the rock formation that I didn’t realize I walked right past it! For a solid 45 minutes, I trudged through red sand in my sneakers in search of anything that looked remotely like Elephant Rock. Feeling defeated, I got back to the parking lot and continued my journey. But I’ll go back and conquer that rock formation for sure next time.
The rest of my visit to V.O.F. was a windows-down, spirited cruise in the ILX through some of the fun twisties. This kind of view (pictured below), I contend, is better than any front-row seat at a sporting event. It’s better than a view of a nighttime cityscape from an urban penthouse. It’s a panoramic view of the natural world in its colorful, untouched condition aside from an immaculate ribbon of blacktop cutting through it. I was in my element.
I took a right on Mouse’s Tank Road and headed to the White Dome Trailhead about 6 miles up the road. There were several dips in the road where floodwaters collect during rainy seasons, but they made some really fun rollercoaster-like ups and downs for my sport sedan.
After I’d had my fun, Highway 169 took me to the small town of Overton on the north shore of Lake Mead Reservoir. Lake Mead, by the way, is the largest reservoir in the United States. It covers 247 square miles of surface and holds 28 million acre-feet of water when filled to capacity! I weaved my way along the lake until arriving at a junction with Highway 93 and the rest of the drive was familiar territory. It was a phenomenal drive and I’m glad I took the time to experience Valley of Fire in all its glory! Below are the video and photos from the drive.
Morning departure from St. George, Utah
For once, went “old school” and used printed directions from Google Maps
Exiting I-15 in favor of roads that were far more scenic and exciting
Overton, Nevada. A town so small I wasn’t even able to find out its population.
But just a few miles beyond city limits: Home to the largest reservoir in the country.
Nearing my destination
Pull off the road for a quick pic? Don’t mind if I do.
I’m sorry, but what font is that where the “F” is capitalized and everything else isn’t?
Not another soul in sight.
Elephant Rock – 1/8 mile away. Should have been easy to spot, right?
Two or three miles later, I crossing a rickety metal bridge. Where was that darn rock?
Working up a sweat.
Onward to do some more exploration
Years and years of erosion have made the landforms into stunning shapes.
The Vistor Center looked like a McDonald’s, just without the golden arches.
“Look northwest.” Well, I tried that, and I still didn’t see Elephant Rock.
Displays inside the Visitor Center
Cruising up Mouse’s Tank
Like a playground
15 mph? C’mon. These hairpin curves beg for at least 25 when you’re in a car like the ILX.
Sights of the road
Moonroof open, sun streaming in
Next stop: Lake Mead
Las Vegas Bay – I wonder if there’s a slot machine to be found
Lake Mead in all its glory
That’s a wrap!
Check out Acura’s latest commercial: “Let the Race Begin.”